TV network CEOs - 'We challenge other media to be as accountable'

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 30 November 2016
Think TV's Dominic White moderates a panel featuring Nine's Hugh Marks, Ten's Paul Anderson, Seven's Tim Worner and Foxtel's Peter Tonagh.

Australia’s commercial TV network bosses have demanded marketers hold all media channels up to the same standards of accountability as television at a ReThink TV event in Sydney.

It was the first time all four network CEOs – Nine’s Hugh Marks, Seven’s Tim Worner, Ten’s Paul Anderson and Foxtel’s Peter Tonagh – have shared a stage in discussion about the power of television.

In response to a question about the accuracy of TV ratings measurement compared to digital media, Tonagh expressed disbelief that Facebook could get some of their viewing figures so wildly wrong without any repercussions.

“I find it almost inconceivable that somebody can be out by 55% and there’s not outrage across the industry,” he told an audience of about 800 marketers, media buyers and industry figures. “If our measurement systems were out by 55% I think we would be hammered.”

Seven West Media boss Tim Worner agreed, adding that if TV networks misreported to such an extent, media buyers and marketers “would kill us”.

“Bob Miller the other day said anyone caught busted like this should be strung up on a lamp post…they should put up a big one,” he added.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks called on advertisers to demand transparency rather than “numbers that are based on false assumptions” or views that only ran for a matter of seconds.

“I would challenge all other media to measure themselves to our standards,” he added.

Ten boss Paul Anderson added: “What advertisers, management teams and boardrooms have demanded is a level of assurance in transparency and measurement of their advertising dollars they spend on television and that should be replicated across all other forms across the media.”

Adapting to change 

TV chiefs admitted networks had not adapted and innovated quick enough to changing consumer behaviours driven by technology.

“I’m not sure if you’d call that arrogance,” Tonagh said. “But I think it’s true we haven’t innovated or adapted as fast as we should have.”

One area that still needs reform, pointed out Worner, are the demographic bands used to sell advertising inventory.

“I do find it interesting that demographic bands have not changed in our industry for decades, I think it even goes back to the 60s,” he said.

“You try and tell me that spending patterns haven’t changed or viewing patterns haven’t changed? That’s ridiculous and yet we’ve never actually challenged these demographic bands that people place so much weight on.”

Netflix threat 'overstated'

Media bosses believe that the threat of Netflix, Stan and other SVODs to television has been overstated and streamed content often complements linear TV viewing.

“Yes there’s a large number of people who have downloaded and paid for Netflix. All the data says that 6% of the people basically using these services account for 80% to 90% of viewing, so it’s a very small proportion who are very heavy users,” Tonagh said.

“The bulk of people using Netflix or Stan or other SVOD services use it as a complement to other viewing and are watching a lot of light TV."

Marks said the industry that has really suffered at the hands of online disruption and SVOD giants is video distribution.

“The patterns of viewing across Stan vs free-to-air is complementary viewing. There’s always been binge watching – I used to buy three DVDs for the family and this is in that same space."

Anderson said the popularity of SVODs and digital media has increased screen time across all platforms, which provides an opportunity for TV networks is to grow audiences across multiple devices rather than focusing on linear TV.

TV networks have each invested heavily in their digital platforms to make video content more accessible on multiple devices. 

Ultimately, TV's success will boil down to strong content, and both Worner and Marks believe there is room from improvement on this front.

“The last couple of years for TV shows, I don't reckon we've been at our best," Worner said. "I don't know how the room feels about that, but that's the way I feel. We've been through better periods and I think better periods will come because we've shown a propensity to adapt as a medium."

At the ReThink TV event, Think TV unveiled a new commercial promoting the power of television. Check it out.

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